“Harrowing Journey”

Kramer, Joel P. “A Harrowing Journey” The Greatest Adventure Stories Ever Told. Edited by Lamar Underwood. Guilford, CT: Lyons Press, 2002.

Reason read: June is short story month.

By the time you finish reading “A Harrowing Journey” you are breathless and stunned, wondering how anyone could survive the adventure Kramer and his companion, Aaron Lippard, experienced for 120 days in the wilds of New Guinea. Human-eating crocodiles. Near drowning. Cannibal tribes in the deep interior of New Guinea. The loss of supplies. The goals was to be the first to cross New Guinea without engine power but they were lucky just to survive.

Author fact: Kramer is an adventure photographer.

Book trivia: Kramer has written a full book on the adventure called Beyond Fear.

Nancy said: Pearl mentioned “A Harrowing Journey” from The Greatest Adventure Stories Ever Told because it was a story she found so “desperately foolhardy” she found herself “wincing in sympathetic pain” while she read it (Book Lust To Go p 3).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the very first chapter called “A Is For Adventure” (p 1).


Bold Spirit

Hunt, Linda Lawrence. Bold Spirit: Helga Estby’s Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America. Idaho: University of Idaho Press, 2003.

Reason read: I think it’s ironic that I am reading my first book in honor of Just ‘Cause the same year I chose not to participate. But, there you have it. Another irony is that this year Just ‘Cause is not doing their walk in May. It’s in June.

On May 5th 1896 Helga Estby and her daughter, Clara, embark on a cross country journey on foot to raise money for their impoverished family. Everything about this journey is fraught with risk. Consider the facts. First, her home life: Helga has nine children she must leave in the care of her out-of work-husband. As a Norwegian, this is a scandalous decision simply because women do not leave their families for anything. Second, the “scheme”: a wealthy yet unknown sponsor with ties to the fashion industry is offering a reward of $10,000 if Helga can walk from Spokane, Washington to New York City in seven months. Helga knows very little about this benefactor and the trip will be extremely dangerous. In addition, although this unknown sponsor wants to prove the physical endurance of women, she has a few rules.

  1. Helga and her daughter may only start out with $5 a piece. All other income must be earned along the way. [They end of selling photographs of themselves and doing odd chores.]
  2. They must visit each state’s capital.
  3. They must acquire the signature of prominent politicians
  4. Once arriving in Salt Lake City, must don a “reform costume” otherwise known as a bicycle skirt. This was an effort to display the latest fashion – a dress that was several inches shorter to give women “leg freedom” and was considered quite scandalous.
  5. They could not beg for anything – rides, food, or shelter.
  6. They could not pay for rides.
  7. They had to arrive in New York by early December.

This sets the stage for Hunt’s Bold Spirit but what emerges is a story about courage and commitment. Unfortunately, because Helga Estby and her family were so ashamed of her venture when it was all said and done, very little evidence of her walk was properly preserved. Most everything was willfully destroyed. As a result Hunt has to rely on speculation to fill in the gaps. Language like “they were likely”, “perhaps”, “it is possible”, probably”, and “they might have” pepper the entire book.

Book trivia: I like the design of this book a great deal. The photography is wonderful, too.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Walk Right In” (p 250).


It Must Be

Barnes, Scott P. It Must Be…(A Grand Canyon Trip): Drawings and Thoughts From a Winter Trip From Lee’s Ferry to Diamond Creek (December 19, 2010 – January 2, 2011). Charleston: 2011 [ISBN 9780615444055].

In the interest of full disclosure I must admit this upfront. Scott is a dear friend of mine. Gawd, that makes me (and him!) sound ninety years old. Let me rephrase. Scott has a piece of my heart, forever and always. As you might have guessed we were lovers, best friends, roommates, and even classmates at one point. We have 25 years of history. He is, and will remain, the only “ex” with whom I can have an intelligent conversation. To be more blunt, he is the only ex I talk to. Period.

All that being said, I found It Must Be to be a tease, disappointingly short. That was my very first thought upon seeing its size and opening its first pages. It was my last thought when I finished reading it the first time; well after I had seen and imagined its potential. My mind exploded with the possibilities for this slim missive. To say that I wanted more, more, more is a good thing. But, in the end I changed my mind about it all. First, let me back up and write a proper review:

At first glance It Must Be looks like a self-indulgent diary. One of those “vanity press” books when one wants to see themselves in print. In reality It Must Be is an unflinching look at our greatest natural resource, water. Specifically, the Colorado River. Hidden in the journal of a winter adventure down the Grand Canyon Barnes plays devil’s advocate and dares to ask about man’s wanton waste while recognizing we need water for work and for play beyond sustenance. It Must Be speaks to the naturalist, the avid boater, the ecologist, and the historian, but his most obvious audience is the artist. Brilliant color and detail explode from nearly every page. Canyon walls come alive in shades of red and blue, black and green, while the river’s ever-changing energy is captured in the same. While It Must Be is short and sweet (46 pages cover to cover) its final message is loud and clear, “how much do you need?”

Here are the places I thought could have had more “meat.” Barnes mentions Matkatamiba and Havasu Canyon as being highlights of the trip (p 22). I wanted to know why. What made these places worth mentioning? Also, I was intrigued by “mailboxes on page 37. Even though this is a “gimmick” that has been done in the past, I would have enjoyed a sample “note,” something to delicately lift from an envelope, unfold and read (think Nick Bantock). I had questions about these notes (beyond the obvious what did the notes say?), like ‘were the notes weathered and fragile?’ and ‘Were the notes dated and if so, how old was the oldest note?’ As I mentioned before, I thought It Must Be ended way too soon. I wanted more description. What was it like to have those majestic canyon walls crowned over your head? Maybe photographs instead of just a link. More visuals. More stories. Sights. Sounds. (Lights, camera, action!)
But, then again, no. Maybe not. Maybe the point was just what it was, a simple reflection on a meaningful trip. Maybe you as the reader are meant to hunger for more. Maybe the goal was not to satisfy a curiosity but to create one?

Favorite quotes, “Humans fool ourselves, so our desires must be” (p 2, if It Must Be had pages), “We cannot control what we don’t know” (p 10), and “The river must be allowed to flow” (p 30).
Favorite pages of art – 12, 20 & 33.

Author Fact: Barnes has a wicked sense of humor that is laced with sarcasm. It Must Be has hints of that bite.

Book Trivia: It Must Be is part journal, part retrospect, part sketchbook, part didactic, part lecture, and all heart.